One of the bars with the nicest atmosphere in Beijing is the Red Capital Residence (note: not the same as the Red Capital Club – which is a restaurant that has the same owner). It is a very cosy little hotel (about 4 rooms) with a fantastically designed lounge. The building is located in a hutong (Dong Si Liu Qiao), about a 15 minute walk west from Poly Plaza / Swissotel. There is no sign on the wall or door, but it is the nicest door in the whole street (a red double door, about 150 meters west from the main road). When you enter you walk into a courtyard with a small garden in the middle. The hotel rooms are around the open courtyard, as is the bar. The bar is designed in a Chinese Revolutionary way, full of paintings and memorablia of Mao, and with book shelves covered with books about China. Some of the very comfortable seats come direcly from Zhongnanhai where they had been in use by Zhou Enlai and his friends.
I visit this bar about three to four times a year, normally with good friends or business partners to enjoy a nice drink and a cigar. Last Friday was a typical occasion. My friend Carlo Crosetto started to work in Beijing a few months ago as CFO for the new Mercedes-Benz and Beijing Jeep plant, and he did not know the place yet. Because I was in Beijing anyway, he invited me to stay at their house. He and his wife Susanne have a very nice place in East Lake Villas, not far from where I used to live 6 years ago (East Gate Plaza). After a pizza at their place (Carlo is Italian), Susanne decided to stay with their son Luca, and we went for a night on the town. Carlo offered me a great Romeo & Juliet cigar from his humidor, and he took a Montecristo himself. So what was the first place I thought of? The Red Capital Residence. There was only one guest there when we arrived, and that is typical. I always think they try to keep the place a bit of a secret, they probably make their money from the hotel rooms.
There was some relaxed background music (no revolutionary songs, mind you), and we both enjoyed our cigars while sipping some drinks. Leaning back in the chairs we talked a lot about life and work in China, and the things we liked and disliked here. After finishing the cigars (which takes some time, probably about 1.5 hours) I showed Carlo the underground bar / cinema. In the middle of the courtyard is an entrance to what looks like a cave. If you enter there (not easy) you will find steps that lead you down to two bigger rooms (each about 8-10 m2). This was built during the Cultural Revolution as a protection agains a Russian bombing. Now it is in use as a bar (but it’s too cold in winter without heating) and as a small cinema. The cinema (max. 5 people can come in) shows films that were famous during the Cultural Revolution.
A great place to have a quiet drink or relax on a Sunday afternoon. Good luck finding it!